I will always associate a good road trip with great BBQ. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a 45 minute drive or a cross country adventure, stopping at roadside barbecue joints is just as important and stopping for gas. This is certainly the case for an afternoon drive through South Carolina, where I went out of my way, diverging from I-85 to Business 85 for 10 minutes to experience what Carolina BBQ had to offer.
Carolina BBQ has the appearance of a typical country diner gone hog wild. Before you even enter the door, the neon hogs are lit up, and once you do cross the threshold into the dining room, no matter where you look, you can’t not find yourself gazing at pig paraphernalia on every wall. Perhaps part of the reason the cheesy signs are hoggin’ the wall are to prevent any of those reckless vegetarians from wandering in and causing kitchen havoc, but more importantly it gives you the feeling you’re among fellow gluttons (like an AA meeting held in a bar).
The menu was pretty giant and I wasn’t exactly sure what to order. But if you visit, you have to keep in mind it’s called ‘Carolina BBQ’ because the restaurant boasts Lexington style, hickory smoked pork. Since Lexington, North Carolina— nearly three hours away claims to be the barbecue capital of the world (don’t tell people in the rest of the south please), this should be considered a stamp of approval that the ribs should be fantastic.
However, ribs weren’t the only thing I was hankering for. The restaurant’s most popular item is their 16 hour slow cooked Chopped Barbecue Plate ($7.59), but also wanted a swath of the other food they had to offer. After all, everything in their pork plundering lair was telling me to eat more pig. After a few too many indecisive glances at their menu, I settled on the ‘Pig-Out Plate‘, which allows you to choose any two ($14.99) or three meats (17.99).
I chose the barbecue ribs and smoked turkey, which I haven’t seen on many bbq menus, but realized later the BBQ pork on the menu referred to pulled pork and I still needed to order the ribs separate. The plate also doesn’t give you the option to order the chopped barbecue, so although I was excited to order, I later felt I had missed out. The barbecue was great as I expected. The meat wasn’t falling off of the ribs, but it had great flavor and I liked the all important sauce the meat was glazed and lathered in. Besides the ribs and sweet tea though, everything else was average, including the sides of potato salad and Brunswick stew (no hash on the menu). Also, I know it’s pretty typical for a rib shack to serve you on styrofoam, but in this nice sit down spot, it still surprised me when everything came out in picnic style format.
Ordering mishap aside, I thought the service was great for having one dude holding down the whole place. His name was Justin (I think) and he was waiting the few tables that were there and taking all the to-go orders phoning in constantly.
When I asked about dessert, he recommended the deep fried chocolate hush puppies, promising they weren’t too heavy. They turned out to be tiny, deep fried brownie bites, but had the appearance of mini-charcoal briquettes. I can’t tell if that was the intended look or not, but since they’re tasty (not to mention deliciously bizarre), I hope in the future they polish up their appearance with a dusting of powdered sugar or something to make them look more appetizing.
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Carolina BBQ is a quaint rib stop, which runs shy of being an epic detour. However, If you’re traveling I-85 and don’t mind going a bit out of your way, you can find Carolina BBQ in Spartanburg, South Carolina, just off of Business 85. For more directions visit their website at My Carolina BBQ. Also note that in the great interest of the pursuit of BBQ, I’ve added a few other interesting sounding places in the area to the map above, but all of them are more out of the way. This short list includes Pig Out, Pappy’s Old Fashioned BBQ, Southern Barbecue and the legendary Beacon Drive-In (which isn’t a BBQ place really, but would have been my first choice if I had time to go deeper towards Spartanburg).